Monday, May 09, 2011

wheelchair friendly Open Stage of Harrisburg

While applause is traditionally reserved for performers, here I must applaud a theatre itself! Living with Multiple Sclerosis as a family will do that to you because accessibility is more than a concept.

The Angino Family Theatre / Open Stage of Harrisburg “had me at hello”, as a caregiver, when wheelchair seating easily displayed on their on-line ticketing screen. Upon arriving, when they removed the seat so Patti’s chair could just roll into the spot eliminating transfers they earned my highest label, “wheelchair welcoming”.

We chose to celebrate Mother’s Day by attending “August: Osage County”. What could be better than spending Mother’s Day with a “matriarch who careens back and forth between incoherency and sharp-tongued, foul-mouthed lucidity?” Theater review August Osage County

MS symptoms of dysarthia and Pseudobulbar affect which can cause Patti to abruptly and unintentionally interact with movie theatre dialogue had never been tested in live theatre. through MS 'symptom D' glasses

Plus Patti has evolved through MS changes into somewhat a practitioner of “foul mouthed lucidity” herself. cursing and swearing and Multiple Sclerosis, oh my!

Front row wheelchair seating was in such proximity visual impairment was erased, actors often performed within an arms reach, and referring to cigarettes as ‘ciggies’ (Patti’s favorite phrase) in the dialogue may as well have been an invitation.  

Shhhing Patti never works, best to just try and ‘reboot’ her with a touch redirecting her attention momentarily. I cannot even remember how many touch prompts it took to nip Patti’s inter-acting debut in the bud.

The play rocked, like riding a rollercoaster of dramatic and hilarious ups, downs, corkscrews, and loops. Minus the physical barriers it was all the more thrilling. Minus Patti’s cognitive barriers it was a whole new dimension. By the third act there I was with my hand poised above Patti’s arm and our daughter behind Patti with her hands poised above Patti’s shoulders, as if we were all reveling in the play while trying to keep her from periodically jumping into the play. J

No, it was not a Hallmark Mother’s Day moment, it was better.
Caregivingly Yours, Patrick Leer 
web site:  


  1. sounds like another fun adventure for the three of you!! Good that the seating was accommodating from the get-go with no problems there! Happy (belated) Mother's Day to Patti and kudos to you and Megan, Patrick, for thinking of a super way to celebrate her special day!


  2. I love it!

  3. It's currently onstage at the Zach here in Austin. I saw it last month. Great show, and I can think of several places where Patti's input would have been perfect.

  4. Now there's a theater that "gets it!" So glad your outing went well.

  5. Absolutely! How accessible a venue is makes all the difference as to whether such an event is a good or bad experience. Great for you and Patti that this theater gets it!

  6. I am so glad you had a great experience at Open Stage of Harrisburg. I am proud of AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, proud to work there, and proud that you, your daughter and Patti had a fabulous Mother's Day experience! Thanks! See you at the theatre again soon, I hope!

    Stuart Landon
    Marketing & Sales Operations Manager
    Open Stage of Harrisburg

  7. HiPatrick,
    Great post, put a big smile on my face.
    I just passed by to say hello.
    I hope you are doing well.

  8. Hi,

    I'm the theatre critic that is quoted in your eloquent letter.

    I'm glad that Patti was able to see the show with such ease. That is what theatre should be about - bringing joy, comfort and refreshment of spirit!

    Patti, we want to see you out and about again because we care!!

    Lew Silverman

  9. This is a terrific story! I am so glad she enjoyed it and that we could all be part of her Mother's Day celebration! I too am proud to work at Open Stage. The plays continue to challenge and touch those who see them. Thanks you for your heartfelt blog post!


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